Leather is remarkable stuff – that’s why we love it and work with it. Good-quality leather learns and changes over time, shapes itself around your habits, and acquires more character the more you do with it. Bill Amberg products are made from a range of leathers, including vegetable-tanned leather that, with a little looking after, will develop a beautifully lustrous patina as they age.
You can find out more about how leather is made and manipulated on our sister site, the Bill Amberg Studio.
Here are a few tips on caring for your Bill Amberg leather products. Follow these and, after a while, they won’t look pristine any more – they’ll look even better.
Vegetable tanning is the oldest method of turning animal hide into usable material. The process uses the natural tannins present in tree bark to change the protein structure of the skin, making it stronger, more durable and immune to decay.
Of all the tanning methods used today, vegetable tanning is the slowest, trickiest to manage and most unpredictable. The results, however, are more than worth the time and effort. Vegetable tanning produces strong, supple leathers that are a pleasure to craft, include natural variations that give them character, and which patinate wonderfully as they age.
At Bill Amberg, we’ve been working with traditional tanneries in England and Europe for nearly three decades, personally selecting the finest leathers for our team of craftsmen to work with. Each of the bags and accessories that they become is therefore – thanks to vegetable tanning – completely unique.
Some of the leathers we use have a surface finish to protect them, others have oil impregnated in the skin during tanning to create a soft, waxy feel throughout the hide.
Some of the leathers we use undergo a spot treatment to make them water resistant, so everyday splashes, spills and showers should be no problem. However, if the material becomes soaked for any reason, be sure not to dry it artificially, as this will damage the leather’s chemical structure and lead to shrinkage and hardening. Allow leather to dry at room temperature, slowly and naturally, and it should return to its former glory soon enough.
When people are out in the sun too long, their skin needs moisturising to stop it drying and cracking. Leather is similar. If your product starts to feel dry and brittle, it will need feeding to reintroduce moisture into the fibres of the skin. Two or three light applications of a neutral leather cream (such as Meltonian) to the whole surface of the leather should do the trick. If your leather is already soft and malleable, don’t bother – overfeeding can cause it to soften, sag and lose shape.
A polish now and then will help keep your leather lustrous. Use a soft cloth and buff the surface very gently to maintain its sheen and remove any ‘bloom’ Be careful not to be too vigorous; your leather won’t react well to excessive heat or friction.
If your leather gets dirty, wipe it lightly with a dry cloth. If that doesn’t do the trick, a slightly damp cloth should get rid of most dirt, but if it doesn’t the nuclear option is a dab of very, very mild hand soap on a soft cloth. Anything stronger, such as saddle soap or a vigorous cleaning agent, is likely to dry out the surface and damage the leather. If you’re at all concerned, please get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to put your product through a maintenance programme that will leave it looking beautiful.
If you store your leather for any length of time, whether in a cupboard or a plastic bag, you might notice a faint white powdery coating has appeared on the surface. Refrain from panic; ‘bloom’ like this is an entirely normal sign of a good-quality, oil-dressed skin and is nothing a quite dry polish won’t fix. Rub the surface gentle with a soft cloth or a clean new shoebrush and the bloom should be reabsorbed back into the skin
One of the most wonderful things about leather is what happens to it as it ages. Vegetable-tanned leathers, like those used to make Bill Amberg’s bags, will develop a patina over time and use. A soft lustre will appear in places that are most frequently handled and parts of the surface may darken in colour as natural oils are absorbed into the skin. Bags may grow accustomed to the shape of the things you carry in them and straps will become more comfortable in the positions you wear them in most often. In this way, the leather starts to show the story of its life and its owner on its surface – we believe that’s one of the most wonderful things about it.
Although we try to ensure that the materials we use aren’t susceptible to colour rub, it’s possible that some colour transfer may occur when the leather brushes against pale or abrasive clothing. This is the result of disturbing the wax on the surface of the leather rather than a permanent dye stain, and is easily removable in a normal wash.